Jungle Fire: History of Boynton Beach Fire Rescue

For this blog we are pleased to have a another Boynton Beach Fire Department history installment from our resident guest blogger, Michael Landress of the Boynton Beach Fire Department

An interesting early morning structure fire during the late 1940s occurred at a tiny pub called the Jungle Inn Bar located in Briny Breezes. The inn was a popular drinkery owned and op…erated by a man called “Biggin” Baskin — aptly named due to his mountainous size.

The fire began as an unattended barbeque pit that was used inside the tavern collapsed in the wee hours of the morning, sending smoldering coals crashing to the ground. The unabated embers ignited the wooden floorboards and flames quickly rolled up the walls.

This 1946 Mack 500 GPM Piston Pumper is the truck used during the Jungle Inn Bar fire. The fire engine would prove its worth, as it was still in service in our department during the 1970s

This 1946 Mack 500 GPM Piston Pumper is the truck used during the Jungle Inn Bar fire. The fire engine would prove its worth, as it was still in service in our department during the 1970s

The department had recently purchased a 1946 Mack 500 GPM piston pumper and Boynton firemen responded to the blaze with the new engine. On arrival, they found the inn totally insulted by fire. They staged the fire engine parallel to the tangled mangroves and Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in hopes of drafting water, as hydrants were few, or non existent.

In the chaos that ensued, the weary operator engineer [driver] stood aghast at the pump panel. Scratching his head in disbelief, he had forgotten the sequence for pumping. Fireman James I. Lacey then stepped up to the panel and quickly engaged the pump. As other firemen began to pull multiple sections of hose and nozzles from the engine, James deployed the hard suction, complete with strainer into the saltwater, thus beginning the drafting process.

They valiantly battled the blaze until dawn.

“It was saltwater, but it was wet. We pumped water until daybreak and finally extinguished the fire. It was a good thing because we noticed that our drafting hose and strainer were dangling in mid air. The water level had dropped considerably. We thought that we had drained the canal until we realized it was an outgoing tide! We all enjoyed a hearty laugh.”

~ Fireman Lacey

Michael Landress

Michael Landress

Michael Landress is a native Floridian and novice historian. He has spent the previous 15 years as a professional firefighter/paramedic for the City of Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department. He holds a BA from St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida and his hobbies include; spending time with his two teenage sons, writing, photography, supporting the Miami Dolphins and saltwater fishing.

Quiet Hero

Written by Guest Blogger Michael Landress of the Boynton Beach Fire Department

The 1970s were the beginning of the paramedic program for the Boynton Beach Fire Department. Fireman Gene Kight is credited with initiating the program along with medical directors Richard Vollrath and Charles Akes.

Gene became somewhat of a reluctant celebrity in the early ‘70s. On May 7, 1974, Gene was returning home from Miami after visiting with the City of Miami Fire Department’s Rescue Division. Traveling north on Interstate 95, Gene was waved down by other motorists and asked to assist in the rescue attempt of a crane operator working nearby.

Gene Kight, Image courtesy The National Enquier

Gene Kight, Image courtesy The National Enquier

The operator had raised the boom of the crane tangling it in a web of overhead high tension electrical wires. The man was actually being electrocuted as Gene approached the scene. In a perilous move, and with nothing more than a pair of gloves for protection, Gene pulled the man from the crane, thus saving his life. Gene received third degree burns to his left arm.

Gene’s bravery did not go unnoticed by the local newspapers. Numerous articles were featured in the papers calling Gene a true hero. Miami Fire Chief, D.A. Hickman, sent a letter to Boynton Beach Fire Chief E. Wright on Gene’s behalf.

Perhaps the most exciting recognition he received was a letter of appreciation from the President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford. Gene was also named the “1974 Florida Fireman of the Year” by the Florida State Firemen’s Association for his unselfish act of heroism.

Gene continued his work in developing and enhancing the paramedic program until his retirement in 1997. Author’s note; although I did not have the opportunity to work with Gene during his distinguished career, I have had the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions, and believe it when I write, he is a quiet hero!

Michael Landress

Michael Landress

 

Michael Landress is a native Floridian and novice historian. He has spent the previous 15 years as a professional firefighter/paramedic for the City of Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department. He holds a BA from St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida and his hobbies include; spending time with his two teenage sons, writing, photography, supporting the Miami Dolphins and saltwater fishing.

Happy 100th Birthday to the Boynton School!

1st Permanent Schoolhouse in Boynton, ca. 1907

1st Permanent Schoolhouse in Boynton, ca. 1907

It is hard to imagine a Boynton Beach without a schoolhouse. In 1895, only a handful of people lived here, and for most of those, formal education was unnecessary. Between 1900 and 1910, the little settlement, known simply as Boynton, grew in population from less than 100 people to nearly 700.

Though they had no children of their own, Fred and Byrd Spilman Dewey recognized the need for a school in the growing settlement of Boynton. In 1897, Fred S. Dewey appeared before the school board and petitioned for a Boynton school, as reported in the August 5, 1897 Tropical Sun. A small, one-room schoolhouse on stilts was erected on land donated by the Deweys, in the area of the present day Dewey Park (Ocean Avenue and NE 4th Street). Miss Maude Gee was the first teacher, referred to in the Tropical Sun as Boynton’s “Instructoress.” A makeshift school for African-Americans; known at that time as a “Colored School” opened in 1896 in the area of today’s Poinciana School.

Article from Tropical Sun

Article from Tropical Sun

 

Albert P. Sawyer donated the land for the first permanent schoolhouse for White children, from his Sawyer’s Addition to the Dewey’s original Town of Boynton plat on November 29, 1902. In 1904 the two-room wooden school which was located near present-day Ocean Avenue and Seacrest Blvd. (then Green Street) opened with W.S. Shepard as Principal and Agnes Halseth as teacher. A few years later, in 1909, Palm Beach County was carved out of Dade County.

The Boynton School, ca. 1913

The Boynton School, ca. 1913

In 1912, the Palm Beach County School Board approved a contract with A. Mellson to construct the first part of a new school building. The original plan left the upstairs unfinished and did not include the fire escape. The Board approved a contract for William W. Maughlin, an architect from Baltimore to design a new masonry vernacular school. Maughlin, born in 1847, had previously designed the Palm Beach High School in 1908-1909 and was a draftsman for the Florida East Coast Hotels. Maughlin and his firm of Ruggles and Weller constructed the schoolhouse. The Boynton School was Maughlin’s last project, he passed away suddenly in October 1913 at his office and is buried in Woodland Cemetery.

Architect Wm. Maughlin's Woodmen of the World Monument (1847-1913) at Woodlawn Cemetery.

Architect Wm. Maughlin’s Woodmen of the World Monument (1847-1913) at Woodlawn Cemetery.

In December, 1912, the Board of Instruction authorized work to be completed on the two-story, six classroom building. The structure, one of the first in Boynton to feature indoor plumbing, had a signature portico, large sash windows and transom windows to facilitate the flow of sunlight and fresh air. The floors were made from Dade County Pine, and walls affixed with bead board.

The sturdy school featured a new system in masonry, known as Dunn Tile. The molds, designed by the W.E. Dunn Mfg. Co. of Chicago, the largest manufacturer to make concrete block forms, transformed the building industry. The Dunn Co. used a revolutionary concrete and plaster mixer to make concrete  for block, a precursor to the concrete block house.

Miss Annie Streater (Shepard) with her 1st to 4th grade pupils, ca. 1913

Miss Annie Streater (Shepard) with her 1st to 4th grade pupils, ca. 1913

The school opened September 8, 1913 for grades 1-12 with 81 students in attendance. Little Glenn Murray, age three, was hastily added to the list of pupils so the school had adequate students for the staff of three teachers and a principal. Miss Annie Streater taught the first year and Howard Frederick Pfahl, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, served as school principal for the years 1914-1915. Pfahl motored to school on an Indian motorcycle.

Principal Howard Phahl, ca. 1915.

Principal Howard Phahl, ca. 1915.

The Boynton School served grades 1 -12 until 1927, when the Boynton High School opened next door. For the next three decades the building served as a traditional 1-8 grade school, until Boynton Jr. High opened in 1958. The structure served as a school for primary grades and elementary students until its closing in 1990.

Unity and Patriotism

This 911 tribute is written by guest blogger Michael Landress of the Boynton Beach Fire Department.

911 Tribute

911 Tribute

September 11, 2001 happened to fall on “B” shift for the men and women of the Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department. I was working as the lead paramedic on Rescue No. 2 along with firefighter 3, Randy Jute and probationary firefighter, Adam Turey.
Our normal morning activities of inventorying supplies, checking vehicles, cleaning the station and perpetuating firehouse gossip was abruptly halted by a barrage of horrific images coming from national television broadcasts. We focused on the small TV in the kitchen to witness the top portion of the north tower of the World Trade Center being enveloped in thick, black smoke.
The smoke was billowing uncontrollably from a gaping hole in the building and initial reports were unclear. However, I vividly recall reporters stating this may have been accidental.  “A small plane has just struck the north tower of the World Trade Center . . . more details to follow,” one of them muttered.
It was painfully obvious this was no accident as United Airlines Flight No. 175 slammed into the south tower in an exploding orange ball of fire and falling debris. The plane literally disintegrated into the building killing everyone on board instantly. Terrorists had planned and executed an affliction on American soil like no other time in modern history with perhaps the exception of Pearl Harbor.
As Randy, Adam and I discussed our own strategies for combating such a blaze, the north tower began to buckle and crumble. This magnificent structure, now insulted by fire, collapsed in a huge cloud of dust that blanketed the streets of Lower Manhattan — forever shattering our sense of security.  We realized that it was just a matter of time until the south tower would succumb to the same intense heat radiating from the burning jet fuel. It too, would finally collapse under its own great weight. It was surreal watching this calamity unfold on live television.
My wife called the fire station — her voice cracking with fear as the twin towers disappeared from the New York City skyline. I desperately tried to calm her fears, while coping with my own.  Our reality then set in when the station alarm sounded, summoning us to the first of many emergencies we would handle on this day. My emotions remained mixed throughout the arduous twenty-four hour shift. I was experiencing feelings of anger, grief, helplessness, but above all, I had feeling of unity and patriotism.
Everyone we encountered, including patients, nurses, ER physicians and the notoriously cranky trauma surgeons offered support for what we were doing — simply our jobs. I’ve always been enamored with this profession, but never have I been so proud to have worked as a firefighter/paramedic as I did on September 11, 2001.

On the first anniversary of September 11th, I was invited to speak to a group of young people regarding the events of that day. I chose words of celebration, not of despair. I reflected on the newfound sense of unity and patriotism I had experienced.
Perhaps I am naïve, but I felt as though, albeit brief, that everyone in the country, regardless of race, color or creed, seemingly became one. We were all touched by this tragedy — not for the color of our skin, nor our political affiliation or religious beliefs, but simply because we are Americans.
Who can forget the bipartisan, campy rendition of “God Bless America” sung by members of Congress on the steps of Capitol Hill? Yes, it’s true, some sang like squeaking hinges, but it was good to see cooperation and unity from our leadership.
It’s troublesome to think it takes this type of cataclysm for the people of this great country to come together as one nation.
I will always hold the 343 New York City firefighters, the paramedics and emergency medical technicians, the police officers, the port authority personnel, our military and civilians who were murdered on that clear September morning in the highest regard.

Michael Landress

Michael Landress

Michael Landress is a native Floridian and novice historian. He has spent the previous 15 years as a professional firefighter/paramedic for the City of Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department. He holds a BA from St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida and his hobbies include; spending time with his two teenage sons, writing, photography, supporting the Miami Dolphins and saltwater fishing.

The Boynton Theatre

Meteorologists predict temperatures may reach 100 degrees this week in the Palm Beaches. What do people do when the temperature climbs to uncomfortable heights? They head for the refreshing air-conditioning of the movie theatre!

Boynton Theatre

Boynton Theatre

The Boynton Theatre at Lake (Boynton Beach Blvd.) and U.S. 1 (Federal Highway) originally featured silent movies, and a theatre employee provided dramatic music on the piano. The building had one screen and wooden floors. In the 1950s, a quarter-dollar bought two feature movies, a cartoon, and a newsreel. Popcorn cost 5 cents. Church groups met in the theatre building before construction of their own buildings, and businesses occupied the second floor.
Vintage movie theatre brochures provide a glimpse back in time. Look at the entertainment selections from April 1959!

1959 Boynton Theatre Flyer

1959 Boynton Theatre Flyer

 

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw Movie Poster (1958)

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw Movie Poster (1958)

The Goddess (1958), a drama loosely based on the life of Marilyn Monroe, a 1959 biography of Al Capone, aptly called Al Capone, a 1958 British/American western comedy starring Jayne Mansfield and Kenneth Moore, and a low-budget 1957 science fiction film – The 27th Day, featuring flying saucers and aliens.

Al Capone 1959 Movie Poster

Al Capone 1959 Movie Poster

What does the spring 1959 movie selection tell us about the Boyntonites escaping to the movies? Did I mention the free air-conditioning?

The 27th Day Poster (1957)

The 27th Day Poster (1957)